Guitar Gallows Bio Information - Steve Cropper
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Steven Lee Cropper (born October 21, 1941 in Willow Springs, Missouri), also known as Steve "The Colonel" Cropper is an American guitarist, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the guitarist of the Stax Records house band Booker T. & The MG's and backed artists such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla, Rufus Thomas and Johnnie Taylor, also acting as producer on many of these records. He later gained fame as a member of The Blues Brothers band. Cropper is generally regarded as the most well known and influential soul guitarist.
Steve Cropper had a rural white upbringing. He moved to Memphis in 1951 where, exposed to black R&B music, he soon adopted the music of the Memphis area. After years of associating his guitar style with the core black culture of the Stax sound, many are amazed to find that he is caucasian. Of his work in the sixties, Steve says: "If there was anything about the Stax sound it was really music with licks in it. We liked to call them money licks. "
Making something simple sound identifiable on record was one of Cropper's specialities. And it wasn't only the guitar licks. He wrote the Memphis Horns introduction on Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour" on guitar using his characteristic parallel chord approach.
As he himself says, referring to the fretboard markers on the fingerboard of his Telecaster: "Just follow the dots and you can't get into trouble. " When arranged for horns the part is instantly identifiable. When he was sitting with Eddie Floyd, writing "Knock On Wood," Cropper came up with the idea of simply playing the introduction he had written for "In The Midnight Hour" in reverse. He did, it worked, and another million-seller was born.
Steve Cropper executed simple ideas with consummate good taste, originality, and feel. Jimi Hendrix, Syd Barrett and countless other important players have quoted Cropper as a major influence. He can be heard on any good Otis Redding compilation playing classics - co-written with Redding - like " (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" or "Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa (Sad Song)." If the term "getting your chops together" was not coined in reference to Steve Cropper then it should have been.
For over four decades now, Steve Cropper has literally defined the art of R&B guitar. Booker T. and the MGs, the Memphis-based band consisting of Cropper, Booker T. Jones on organ, Al Jackson on drums and Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass was the rhythm section for almost every hit to come out of the Memphis Stax/Volt Records era. Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and many others had hits that were driven by the heavy groove of this band. Cropper also had his hand in producing and writing many of these great hits such as "Dock of the Bay" which he penned with Otis Redding. I had the pleasure of working with him in 1975 when I was playing lead guitar with John Prine, and he was producing Prine's "Common Sense" album. He was also an important part of Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi's "Blues Brothers" takeoff, and continues to be a driving force in the music scene today, producing and playing with almost every kind of major act conceivable. Cropper's tone has a metallic ferocity, yet his playing is always sparse and pervaded with a feeling of suspense.
Steve Cropper's studio work may be the highest embodiment of play-for-the-song minimalism. This least virtuosic of guitar heroes is almost universally admired for devising the archetypal riffs and pithy fills that helped define soul music. As house guitarist for Memphis's Stax Records, he backed Otis Redding, Sam & Dave and many other soul greats, contributing immortal grooves and hooks to some of the era's best music. As one quarter of Booker T & The MGs, he helped devise some of the finest R&B instrumentals ever (including "Green Onions," the 1962 smash that slammed his career into overdrive). He also produced many important soul sessions and co-wrote such gems as "Knock on Wood," "In the Midnight Hour" and "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay."
You tend to incorporate single-note lines into double-stop and tritone riffs? It was bestowed upon me. When I started out doing sessions in the early '60s, they couldnt afford another guitar player. So almost every session we did was one guitar, if that. I hear some of the Stax stuff today that doesn't have guitars, and I love it, but I was right there wishing I could play guitar on those cuts rather than producing and doing everything else. Even my own record with the Mar-Keys, "Last Night," didn't have a guitar on it. In those days we only had one keyboard player, so we switched off on piano and organ. I played guitar on those songs onstage, and nobody ever knew the difference-I just doubled the bass line. I developed that style of throwing in a little single-note fill every now and then to weave in and out of the vocal to make it feel more lyrical with the vocal line. But I always jumped right back into the rhythm. I never liked to get away from the rhythm too much. The whole bottom falls out.